An Open Letter to President Trump: Serving American Interests by Engaging the Iranian People
Dear President Trump:
On behalf of the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), we write to wish you success in uniting our nation and bridging partisan divides after a divisive election. PAAIA works to advance the voice of Iranian Americans as it affects our interests in the U.S. as well as to offer our perspectives on U.S. policy toward Iran. The Iranian American community is dedicated to protecting America’s national interests. They are patriots who contribute greatly to America through their accomplishments, diversity and support for peace and diplomacy. When it comes to policy toward Iran, we believe American interests are best served by engaging the Iranian people and supporting their democratic and economic aspirations.
Iran is one of the few countries in the Middle East whose people maintain a favorable disposition toward America. A survey conducted by Israeli political strategist Yuval Porat shows that the Iranian people tend to hold liberal and democratic values.
From a policy standpoint, efforts should be made to engage Iran and encourage economic and social reform. Policymakers would be wise to think more creatively about crafting policies that would support America’s greatest ally in Iran – the Iranian people.
More Cultural & Educational Exchanges
- The lessons derived from the Cold War indicate that more resources should be dedicated to cultural and educational exchanges. There is no doubt about the important role U.S. cultural diplomacy played in improving relations with Eastern European countries and helping end the Cold War. Such exchanges with Iran will uphold positive features of American society and help cultivate Iranian goodwill toward America.
Expand Trade Exemptions for Telecommunication Tools
- The U.S. should also look into expanding trade exemptions on telecommunication tools that would promote private entrepreneurship and civil society in Iran. Despite restrictions placed on them, Iranians exhibit a high rate of social media and telecommunication usage. Statistics have shown that the Iranian people want to engage with and connect to the world.
Avoid Implementing Unwarranted Visa or Immigration Restrictions
- While pursuing opportunities to engage the Iranian people, it will be important to refrain from implementing unwarranted visa or immigration restrictions that unfairly target them. Such measures only serve the interests of those in Iran who use them as propaganda to keep the country isolated from the West and deter reform.
Ensure Iran Complies with the JCPOA
- With respect to curbing Iran’s opportunity to develop nuclear weapons, we must work to ensure that it fully complies with the terms of the JCPOA (P5+1 Iran Nuclear Deal). A recent scientific, data driven report commissioned by PAAIA concludes that efforts aimed at developing the Iranian economy would significantly increase the likelihood that it complies with its non-proliferation obligations. In this context, the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions has been just as critical in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons capabilities as the verification and data exchange within the nuclear agreement. The report recommends that the U.S. uphold the threat of sanctions without instituting new ones.
These policies would have the support of the Iranian American community. Since 2008, our polling data has consistently shown that while Iranian Americans want to see a secular, democratic Iran and the promotion of human rights, they are opposed to military conflict with Iran. They prefer to resolve differences with Iran through diplomacy and support U.S. public diplomacy efforts in engaging with the Iranian people.
Iranian Americans want to see a free, pluralistic and peaceful Iran. You campaigned on the promise of establishing a coherent and rational foreign policy based upon U.S. interests through new approaches and practical ideas. As your administration develops its policies toward Iran, we would be happy to meet with you to discuss ways in which we can best advance our nation’s strategic interests and democratic values.
Director of Government Affairs and Policy